Idaho stop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Idaho Stop" laws in the United States as of May 2023:
  No specific law / not legal
  Stop sign as yield legal
  Stop sign as yield and red light as stop legal

The Idaho stop is the common name for laws that allow bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign.[1] It first became law in Idaho in 1982, but was not adopted elsewhere until Delaware adopted a limited stop-as-yield law, the "Delaware Yield", in 2017.[2] Arkansas was the second US state to legalize both stop-as-yield and red-light-as-stop in April 2019. Studies in Delaware and Idaho have shown significant decreases in crashes at stop-controlled intersections.

Legality by state[edit]

"Red light as stop"
A red light... treated like a stop sign.
"Stop as yield"
A stop sign... treated like a yield sign.
State Stop as yield Red light as stop Year passed
Idaho Yes Yes 1982
Delaware Yes No 2017
Arkansas Yes Yes 2019
Oregon Yes No 2019
Washington Yes[3] No 2020
Utah Yes No 2021
North Dakota Yes No 2021
Oklahoma Yes Yes 2021
Colorado Yes Yes 2022[1]
Washington, DC Yes No[2] 2022
Minnesota Yes No[4] 2023
Alaska Yes Yes 2023
% of US population 11.6% 4.5%
  1. In Colorado, the practice was legal in certain jurisdictions from 2011 to 2022.
  2. DC law allows bicyclists to make a right turn after stopping at a red light. General ‚Red Light as Stop‘ is also allowed at specific intersections when signage allowing this is posted.
  3. In Alaska, the practice is only legal in Anchorage.


The original Idaho yield law was introduced as Idaho HB 541 during a comprehensive revision of Idaho traffic laws in 1982. At that time, minor traffic offenses were criminal offenses and there was a desire to downgrade many of these to "civil public offenses" to free up docket time.

Carl Bianchi, then the Administrative Director of the Courts in Idaho, saw an opportunity to attach a modernization of the bicycle law onto the larger revision of the traffic code. He drafted a new bicycle code that would more closely conform with the Uniform Vehicle Code, and included new provisions allowing bicyclists to take the lane, or to merge left, when appropriate. Addressing the concerns of the state's magistrates, who were concerned that "technical violations" of traffic control device laws by bicyclists were cluttering the court, the draft also contained a provision that allowed bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign—the so-called "rolling stop law". The new bicycle law passed in 1982, despite objections among some bicyclists and law enforcement officers.

In 2006, the law was modified to specify that bicyclists must stop on red lights and yield before proceeding straight through the intersection, and before turning left at an intersection. This had been the original intent, but Idaho law enforcement officials wanted it specified.[5]The law originally passed with an education provision, but that was removed in 1988 because "youthful riders quickly adapted to the new system and had more respect for a law that legalized actual riding behavior".[6]

In 2001, Joel Fajans, a physics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and Melanie Curry, a magazine editor, published an essay entitled "Why Bicyclists Hate Stop Signs" on why rolling stops were better for bicyclists and it provided greater interest in the Idaho law.[7]

The first effort to enact the law outside of Idaho was started in Oregon in 2003, when the Idaho law still only applied to stop signs.[8] While it overwhelmingly passed in the House, it never made it out of the Senate Rules Committee.[9] The Oregon effort in turn inspired an investigation of the law by the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2008.[10] That investigation failed to spawn legislation, but it did garner national attention, which led to similar efforts nationwide.

The term "Idaho Stop" came into popular use as a result of the California effort in 2008. Prior to that, it was called "Idaho Style" or "Roll-and-go". "Idaho Stop" was popularized by the bicycle blogger Richard Masoner in June 2008 coverage of the San Francisco proposal, but in reference to the "Idaho Stop Law";[11] the term had been used in discussion since at least the year prior.[12] In August of the same year, the term—now in quotes—first showed up in print in a Christian Science Monitor article by Ben Arnoldy who referred to the "so-called 'Idaho stop' rule".[13] Soon after, the term "Idaho stop" was commonly being used as a noun, not a modifier.


A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fact sheet published in March 2023 states that Stop as Yield and Red as Stop laws "showed added safety benefits for bicyclists in States where they were evaluated, and may positively affect the environment, traffic, and transportation".[14] Acting Administrator Ann Carlson stated at a conference in October 2022 that "it increases [bicyclist] visibility to drivers and reduces their exposure. It also promotes safety in numbers by encouraging more people to bike which reduces cyclists overall risks.”[15]

A 2009 study showed a 14.5% decrease in bicyclist injuries after the passage of the original Idaho Stop law (though did not otherwise tie the decrease to the law).[16][17] A Delaware state-run study of the "Delaware Yield" law (allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs) concluded that it reduced injuries at stop-sign controlled intersections by 23%.[18]

A study of rolling stops in Seattle determined that "results support the theoretical assertion that bicyclists are capable of making safe decisions regarding rolling stop",[19] while a 2013 survey of stop as yield in Colorado localities where it is legal reported no increase in crashes.[20] Another study done in Chicago showed that compliance with stop signs and stop lights by cyclists was low when cross-traffic was not present, but that most were still performing an Idaho Stop; and therefore "enforcing existing rules at these intersections would seem arbitrary and [capricious]".[21]

International approaches[edit]

Various approaches to stop-as-yield and red light-as-stop laws exist outside of the United States. In the Netherlands, many junctions are designed to avoid the need for a stop sign, using techniques such as roundabouts, marking the road to indicate who must yield to whom.[22] In 2012 a trial in Paris allowed bicyclists at 15 intersections to turn right or, if there is no street to the right, proceed straight ahead on red, under the condition that they "exercise caution" and yield to pedestrians, after road safety experts deemed the measure would reduce collisions.[23] After the trial, French law was modified to allow bicyclists to treat certain stop lights as yield signs as allowed by signage.[24] Some French cities, like Lyon, have installed the sign on many red lights citywide.[25]

Legislative history[edit]

The "Idaho Stop" has been state policy there since 1982, with Idaho Transportation Department Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Mark McNeese saying in 2015 that "Idaho bicycle-collision statistics confirm that the Idaho law has resulted in no discernible increase in injuries or fatalities to bicyclists."[26]

There was a resurgence of attempts to legalize stop-as-yield in other states in the 2000s. After Oregon and San Francisco’s failed attempts to have similar bills passed, the Colorado cities of Dillon and Breckenridge, passed stop-as-yield laws in 2011, the first places in the country outside of Idaho.[27] in 2012 Summit County passed a similar law for its unincorporated areas,[28] and in 2014, the City of Aspen passed one as well.[29] In 2018, the state passed a law standardizing the language municipalities or counties could use to pass an Idaho Stop or Stop-as-yield ordinance and preventing it from applying to any state highway system.

In 2017, 35 years after Idaho, Delaware became the second U.S. state to pass an Idaho Stop law.[30] Delaware's law - known as the "Delaware Yield" - makes stop-as-yield legal, but it only applies on roads with one or two travel lanes. Bicyclists must come to a complete stop at stop sign-controlled intersections with multi-lane roads.

In April 2019, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed the Arkansas "Idaho stop" law.[31] On August 6, 2019, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Stop as Yield into law with an effective date of January 1, 2020.[32] Washington State legalized stop-as-yield in October 2020. On March 18, 2021, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed Stop as Yield into law for the state and on the next day, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed a similar law for that state.[33][34] On May 10, 2021, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 1770, which will allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs effective November 1, 2021. [35] In April 2022, Colorado passed a law legalizing both Stop as Yield and Red as Stop statewide, overruling the previous patchwork of local laws.[36]

In December 2022, Washington, DC adopted the Safer Streets Amendment Act which allows bicyclists to yield at stop signs. The Act also allows bicyclists to turn right at a red light after stopping, which was banned for drivers at the same time. An earlier version of the bill included a general “Red Light as Stop” provision but this was replaced with a provision that would allow “Red Light as Stop” only at specific intersections with signage posted. [37]

In May 2023, Minnesota passed a law that allowed bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign.[4]

Idaho stop style bills, or resolutions asking the state to pass one, have been introduced in but not yet successful in Arizona,[38] Montana,[39] New York City,[40] Santa Fe,[41] Edmonton,[42] New Jersey,[43] Virginia,[44] and Texas.[45] In California, an Idaho Stop bill was vetoed in 2021 due to the governor’s concerns that the law would confuse children;[46] in 2022 the legislature withdrew a bill legalizing the Idaho Stop for adults after the governor indicated it would be vetoed again. Another bill passed the California Assembly in May 2023.[47]


Advocates for Idaho stop laws argue that they improve safety. One study showed that Idaho has less severe crashes.[48] Similarly, tests of a modified form of the Idaho Stop in Paris found that "allowing the cyclists to move more freely cut down the chances of collisions with cars, including accidents involving the car's blind spot".[49] Some supporters maintain that changing the legal duties of bicyclists provides direction to law enforcement to focus attention where it belongs—on unsafe bicyclists (and motorists).[50] Additionally, some claim that, because bicycle laws should be designed to allow bicyclists to travel swiftly and easily, the Idaho stop provision allows for the conservation of energy.[51]

Opponents of the law maintain that a uniform, unambiguous set of laws that apply to all road users is easier for children to understand[52] and allowing bicyclists to behave by a separate set of rules than drivers makes them less predictable and thus, less safe.[52] Jack Gillette, former president of the Boise Bicycle Commuters Association, argued that bicyclists should not have greater freedoms than drivers. "Bicyclists want the same rights as drivers, and maybe they should have the same duties", he said.[53] San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee argued without citing evidence that the law "directly endangers pedestrians and cyclists" in his veto of a similar law in the city.[54]

Related laws[edit]

Many US states have laws allowing bicyclists (and motorcyclists) to stop at and then proceed through a red light if the light doesn't change due to the inability of the embedded sensors in the ground to detect them. Such laws often require that the bicyclist stop, confirm that there is no oncoming traffic, and proceed after waiting a certain amount of time or cycles of the light. These are known as "Dead Red" laws.[55]

Lane splitting, which allows people on bicycles and motorcycles to "filter" through stopped or slow-moving traffic, is legal in a handful of US states and large parts of the world.

In countries that do not generally allow right turns on red, some allow right turns on red for bicyclists, either in general as in Belgium, or where specifically marked, such as Denmark, Germany and France.


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